Destination: Iceland

R.I.P. Sigurdur Helgason

Photo by sfllaw, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Sigurdur Helgason, who died Feb. 8 at the age of 87, is credited with growing the airline that became known as the “hippie airline.”

“Mr. Helgason built up the United States market, carrying tens of thousands of budget travelers to Europe on what is known today as Icelandair,” his obituary reports.

The article quotes his daughter, Edda, as saying, “He opened up the opportunity for people in America to appreciate the value of Europe, and Europe of America, and there was Iceland, perfectly located, in between.”

We’re All Icelanders Now

We’re All Icelanders Now REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Global Positioning: On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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A Polymath in Iceland and Greenland

The Freakonomics guys recently carved out some space in their blog for the freakishly accomplished Nathan Myhrvold, who turned in three interesting posts—and a bunch of terrific images—from his travels to Iceland and Greenland.

Related on World Hum:
* A Very Long Way to the Hong Kong Cafe

‘We Have Reached a Gilded, Rococo Age of Service Journalism’

Jason Wilson has a fine essay about the trouble with travel and “lifestyle” journalism in The Smart Set.

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Eric Weiner: On Following Your Bliss

eric weiner Photo by Chuck Berman.

What's the relationship between place and happiness? Julia Ross asks the author of "The Geography of Bliss" about happy nations, "hedonic refugees" and the benefits of ma?ana and mai pen lai.

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U.N.: Iceland Rocks. Sub-Saharan Africa? Not so Much.

Iceland photo by Gunna via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

Reports Reuters on the United Nations’ annual Human Development Index report: “Norway had held top spot for six years but was edged into second place by Iceland this year because of new life expectancy estimates and updated figures for gross domestic product.” Australia, Canada and Ireland rounded out the top five. The U.S. is 12th. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst place to live, according to the rankings, and worst of all is Sierra Leone.



‘The Condé Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys’

A new anthology gathers some of the most memorable stories from the magazine's 20-year history. Tyler D. Johnson says it contains the humor and wisdom only travel can deliver.

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Stephen Colbert’s ‘Investigation’ into a Caribbean Resort

What will Stephen Colbert be doing on his week off? The Colbert Report host dead-panned to Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” Thursday night: “Jon, I’ll be launching an intense seven-day investigation into the Royal St. Barts Golf Club and Resort, the Caribbean’s ritziest retreat, so my travel agent would have me believe. But I’ll lay down for a one-on-one Swedish massage with a masseuse who isn’t even Swedish. And then, parasailing: Is it really the coolest thing ever? A grueling five-hour examination. Then, I’ll access one riding stable whose occupants live like animals. The Royal St. Barts Golf Club and Resort: It’s the one Stephen Colbert exclusive you can’t afford…boy, you can’t afford.”

Related on World Hum:
* Jon Stewart on the Zagat Prison Guide
* Jon Stewart on Osama bin Laden’s Latest Tape

Rick Moody on Iceland’s ‘Garden of Eden’

The author of The Ice Storm and The Black Veil reflects on a pre-9/11 trip to Iceland in the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler. “In those days, international tourism seemed an American birthright,” he writes. “Today, we are less secure in our travels. Before was the magical aspect of Gjáin, the heavily symbolized gorge of flowers in the middle of a somber landscape. After, life can feel all about the security screenings. Gjáin was out of a fairy tale; it was out of a movie. And it still exists in South Iceland. To those who visit it now, in a more jaundiced and fearful world, I’m sure it seems even more precious.”

Related on World Hum:
* Whistling at the Northern Lights
* We Are Vikings!

Photo: Reykjavik, Iceland, from JimmyOK’s flickr photo stream. Rights: Creative commons.

Tags: Europe, Iceland

Jason Wilson: One Traveler, Three Dishes Named ‘Jason’

Never mind his travel-writing accomplishments. Jason Wilson has a breakfast sandwich, a pizza and a dessert named after him in three countries. Go ahead: Be stunned. Jim Benning gets the inside scoop on this rarest of travel feats.

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Oslo Tops List of World’s Most Expensive Cities

Norway’s capital unseated Tokyo, Japan, which had been number one on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s biannual survey for 14 years. Reykjavik, Iceland ranked third on the list, with Osaka, Japan and Paris, France rounding out the top five. The AP has a report on the survey.

Photo by Sarah Schmelling.

Travel Summit in Iceland

While we’re on the subject of travel writing and photography conferences, the Icelandic Geographic Travel Summit, which takes place Sept. 8-10 in Reykjavik and bills itself as the “coolest travel summit on the planet,” has assembled plenty of star power. Among those scheduled to speak: Bill Bryson, Tim Cahill, Lonely Planet’s Tony and Maureen Wheeler, and Keith Bellows of National Geographic Traveler.

The Critics: “No Reservations”

New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan likes chef Anthony Bourdain’s new travel show, No Reservations, which debuts tonight on the Travel Channel. The show features the author of “Kitchen Confidential” traveling the globe, from Iceland to New Jersey, eating. (The travel show is not to be confused with a new sitcom in the works for Fox this fall based on “Kitchen Confidential.”)

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Tags: Europe, Iceland

Whistling at the Northern Lights

Whistling at the Northern Lights Photo by Jason Wilson.

Jason Wilson has spent more time than most travelers in Iceland. After a recent visit, he recalls being young and aimless there one summer, whistling at the aurora borealis.

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Swimming Through Iceland

On a recent visit to Iceland, Jason Wilson decided to swim his way around the country by visiting its countless middle-of-nowhere swimming pools. He had many reasons. As he explains in a terrific story in Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine, he was inspired by Icelanders’ love of water, and by a John Cheever short story about a man who, in a fit of suburban desperation, decides to swim home one day from one pool to another. Wilson was also inspired by memories of the time he spent exploring Iceland as a younger man, when he sometimes found himself basking in a Reykjavik pool at the end of a long night. “It is these visits to the pools that remain perhaps the most vivid—the feeling of dipping from cool air into hot water, settling in, chin deep, as steam rises around my head, and feeling as though the days will never end,” he writes. “In my mind, they are like the elusive fountain of youth. I am not so young and aimless anymore, but for some time I’ve dreamed of swimming around Iceland, of breast-stroking and doggy-paddling from swimming pool to hot spring to swimming pool, slicing through a river of hot water that has gurgled up from the center of the Earth.” Registration is required to view the article.

Tags: Europe, Iceland